News 2009



Gaia to lift off from Europe's Spaceport on a Soyuz launcher
Gaia will be carried into space by a Soyuz-STB/Fregat launch vehicle from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. David Southwood, ESA's Director of Science and Robotic Exploration, signed the contract for the launch with Jean-Yves LeGall, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace, at ESA Headquarters in Paris yesterday. For more information, visit the following web page.



Gaia science performance webpage
A new webpage has been released summarising the current prediction of the Gaia science performance. The webpage summarises the expected accuracies of the astrometric parameters as function of magnitude, colour, and position in the sky. In addition, the expected precision of astrophysical parameters extracted from the photometric data is summarised, together with the expected accuracies of the radial velocities as function of magnitude for a range of stars with various spectral types. The webpage will be maintained and will act as central repository for world-wide publication of Gaia's science-performance predictions. It can be accessed from the Gaia main portal by clicking on "Science performance" in the left-hand menu or directly by following this link.



ESA vodcast about astrometry
During the International Year of Astronomy, several video podcasts are being produced by ESA exploring the universe in which we live. Charting the Galaxy - from Hipparcos to Gaia discovers the motions of stars, how astronomers measure their distances and looks at the Gaia mission.



Vacancy notice: Project Management Officer at ESAC (Spain)
The scientific chairman and the executive committee of the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) are supported by the DPAC Project Office (PO), to which the day-to-day management of the overall DPAC development and operations is delegated. The INAF (Italian National Institute for Astrophysics) announces the open position of Project Management Officer to be part of the DPAC PO staff. However, this position (like the rest of the PO members) is located at ESAC (Spain). The position, implemented by INAF and financed by ASI, the Italian Space Agency, is expected to run until about 2020. More information can be found in the following pdf file and link. Closing date for applications is 15 December 2009.



Release of the new issue of the DPAC Newsletter
The DPAC Newsletter no. 6 is now available and there you will find information about how DPAC is planning the Integration Testing, the presentation of the Photometric Science Alerts system set up in CU5 and the principles of the absolute calibration of the radial velocities contrived by CU6 astronomers. For more information, visit the following link.



Vacancy notice: 2 positions as Gaia data processing system scientist at MSSL/UCL
As part of the significant MSSL/UCL involvement in ESA's Gaia mission, two posts are available for scientists to lead the scientific development of the core spectroscopic algorithms for the mission data processing. A track record in observational astronomy is essential, ideally including experience with space-based observations. Previous experience in algorithm development within team-based projects is desirable. The successful applicants will provide scientific expertise within a team of software engineers working on the design, development and verification of operational software for the Radial Velocity Spectrometer instrument, which is implemented as part of the European-wide Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (Gaia DPAC). The role will require close collaboration with the software developers and wider science teams involved in the Gaia project, and the other members of the Astrophysics Group at MSSL/UCL. The applicants will also be encouraged to pursue a programme of research in the area of Galactic formation and evolution.
One post is initially for 1 year, with likely continuation. The other post is for 1-year fixed. The salary will be in the range: £ 28,839 to £ 35,469. The appointment grade will be commensurate with accomplishment and experience.
Informal enquiries may be made to Prof Mark Cropper.
Please apply online for this post at:
If there are any difficulties please contact Libby Daghorn at MSSL, University College London, Holmbury St Mary, Dorking, Surrey RH5 6NT, UK.
Closing date for applications is 15 December 2009.
Further information about MSSL in general can be found at
Please, quote ref:0916 in all correspondence.
Job description and person specification (pdf).



Post-doc position at the Observatory of Bologna (Italy) on Gaia photometric calibration
The Observatory of Bologna calls for applications to a postdoctoral position to work on the absolute calibration of the Gaia spectrophotometric system. The successful applicant will work in close collaboration with the Bologna group that investigates the scientific models for the absolute calibration of the instrument, and with the teams in Bologna, Barcelona and Groningen engaged in the ground-based observations needed for the definition and construction of the grid of spectrophotometric standars stars. The candidate should have experience in the observations, treatment and flux calibration of photometric and spectroscopic data. More details can be found in the official announcement, in Italian, at this link. For further information and help in compiling the Italian forms, please contact Elena Pancino. Closing date for applications is 12 November 2009.



The music behind Hipparcos
In the following link you will find a musical clock made of stars. It has been created using the public data from Hipparcos. Don't forget to turn your sound up.



Release of the new issue of the DPAC Newsletter
The DPAC Newsletter no. 5 is now available and there you will find information about how the Critical Design Review for the DPAC and SOC concluded, how Gaia will help to test General Relativity or the importance of the Gaia Basic Angle. For more information, visit the following link.



The Gaia torus is complete
At the end of June the Gaia mission passed a significant milestone when the 17 individual custom-built Silicon Carbide segments of the torus were brazed into one coherent structure at the BOOSTEC premises at Bazet near Tarbes, France. The torus is a key structural element of the spacecraft and will provide an ultra stable platform for the telescopes and payload. The successful results of the brazing process were concluded after a Mandatory Inspection Point of the torus on Monday 20 July 2009. For more information, visit the ESA Science and Technology news: "Constructing the Gaia torus" and "The Gaia torus is complete".



Tests on the Gaia Deployable Sunshield Assembly (DSA) at ESTEC
The qualification model (QM) of Gaia's deployable sunshield assembly is functionally representative of the flight model and comprises 3 rigid panels (plus the 2 sections between them). The QM test campaign includes functional testing (deployment), vibrational testing (launch conditions), environmental testing (including the thermal vacuum and thermal balance test), and life-cycle testing (ensuring its endurance with multiple deployment tests). More information



Erik Høg receives Russian Struve Medal
Associate Professor Emeritus Erik Høg has been awarded the Russian Struve Medal for his great contributions to the advancement of astrometry from the Earth and from space. Erik Høg was presented with the medal at a ceremony in Saint Petersburg. More information



Vacancy position: Scientific data analyst for Gaia (ESTEC, Noordwijk, the Netherlands)
A vacancy is available to work on the analysis and interpretation of radiation test data taken in the frame of the Gaia mission. The post, within the Gaia Project Scientist's Support Team at ESTEC, will support to define the optimum Gaia operating strategy to minimise the effects of radiation damage and also to determine and implement a strategy for radiation damage calibration in the on-ground data processing. In case of interest in this position, please contact us.



Announcement for the 2010 ESA Fellowship in Space Science
The new ESA Fellowship Programme is open for applications till the 1st October 2009. Fellowships are to begin in late 2010. If you are interested in a Gaia related topic, please, contact us.



The first 40 years of A&A
Due to its 40th anniversary, Astronomy & Astrophysics publishes a special issue (volume 500). It reprints the 40 most cited articles according to ADS for the last 40 years, together with commentaries that highlight their context and impact in astrophysics. Amongst them, you can find The Tycho-2 Catalogue of the 2.5 million brightest stars (Hog E., FabriciusC., Makarov V.V., et al., 2000, A&A, 355, L27) and The HIPPARCOS Catalogue (Perryman M. A. C., Lindegren L., Kovalevsky J., et al., 1997, A&A, 323, L49).



Gaia @ XXVII IAU General Assembly (Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 August)
Information regarding XXVII IAU General Assembly and related to Gaia has been posted in our web site. To access it go to the link on the bottom right corner of the main Gaia web page or visit the following link. In particular, the list of contributions (talks and posters) by Gaia members is available. Please, contact us in case of inaccuracies.



First planet discovered by astrometry
An extrasolar planet orbiting an ultracool M-dwarf, named VB10, has been discovered. This new planetary system, with a mass six times that of Jupiter and a period of 272 days, is remarkable not only because its star is near the lower mass limit for a star but also because it is the first extrasolar planet discovered by astrometric measurements. Astrometric observations of VB10 were taken over 9 years, using the CCD-based STEPS instrument at the 200 inch Hale telescope at Palomar Observatory. These observations revealed a planetary companion with a semi-major axis of 62 milli-arcsec. Gaia is expected to make thousands of such discoveries through monitoring of hundreds of thousands of FGKM stars within a few hundred pc of the Sun. For the particular star VB10 (at V ~ 17.3 mag), the individual Gaia CCD-transit observations will have centroiding errors around 300 micro-arcsec, which will allow a much more precise determination of the planetary characteristics of this system.



New science enabled by microarcsecond astrometry (21-23 July 09, Socorro, USA)
NRAO is hosting a workshop in New Mexico focusing on VLBI astrometry with the specific goal of reaching new communities and forming new collaborations. The meeting organizers believe there is an enormous potential to cooperate with Gaia to maximize the scientific potential of both instruments. Participation of Gaia scientists at the workshop is therefore encouraged. For more information, visit the conference web page.



Solar cycle prediction
The Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel has reached a consensus decision on the prediction of the next solar cycle (Cycle 24). The panel has agreed that solar minimum occurred in December 2008 and has decided that the next solar cycle will be below average in intensity. Given the predicted date of solar minimum and the predicted maximum intensity, solar maximum is now expected to occur in May 2013. For more information, visit the NOAA/Space Weather Prediction Center web page.



Release of the new issue of the DPAC Newsletter
The DPAC Newsletter no. 4 is now available and there you will find information about how Gaia satellite operations are being prepared by ESOC team at Darmstadt, how dozens of millions of Non-Single Stars (NSS) will be handled by Coordination Unit 4 or an approximate calculation on the volume of data Gaia will generate. For more information, visit the following link.



AGIS software in the Cloud Expo Europe
The First International Cloud Computing Expo Europe will be held in Prague (18 - 19 May 2009). The attendants will discover how and why the cost of computation, application hosting and content storage and delivery is plunging fast by several orders of magnitude thanks to Cloud Computing. Gaia will be present in this event as an example of a scientific application feasible to be run in the cloud. For more information, visit the conference web page.



SOC/DPAC Design Review kicked off
The Design Review of the Gaia Science Operations Centre (SOC) and Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) has been kicked off on 5 May by a series of presentations to the review panel members. The review is meant to ensure the correctness and completeness of the design, planning, and testing procedures and plans of the science ground segment. The review procedure - outlining the review objectives, organisation, participants, schedule, and contents of the data package - can be found in Livelink (access restricted to DPAC users). All review documents have been uploaded on Livelink.



Astronomical Applications of Astrometry
The book "Astronomical Applications of Astrometry. Ten Years of Exploitation of the Hipparcos Satellite Data" has been written by Michael Perryman and published in December 2008 by Cambridge University Press. It reviews the applications of the data in different areas, describing the subject and the state-of-the-art before Hipparcos, and summarising all major contributions to the topic made by Hipparcos. It contains a detailed overview of the Hipparcos and Tycho Catalogues, their annexes and their updates. For more information, see Science and Technology web pages



ESA's 'billion-pixel' camera
P. Garé, G. Sarri and R. Schmidt (Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration) have written an article in the ESA Bulletin explaining the challenges of the Gaia mission and how they will be achieved. The full article is available from the ESA Bulletin (February 2009 issue).



Vacancy position: Software engineer (Open University, UK)
The Open University calls for applications to work on the processing of science alerts and the formulation of 2D-images form the Gaia mission. The candidate should have knowledge of software development using Java, C++, Python or similar languages in a team-based environment. A degree in a relevant discipline is required (e.g. Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics, Engineering). Full details are available at the following page. Closing date for applications: 13 March 2009.



Video Processing Unit (VPU) test model delivered
The Gaia Video Processing Unit (VPU) development activity has recently been finalized with the delivery of the engineering model from Astrium UK to Astrium France. The unit is responsible for the real-time processing and commanding of star data transmitted by the focal plane assembly. Read more here.



Workshop on Satellite dynamics: Simulation challenges and requirements
The workshop on Satellite dynamics will be held in Bremen (Germany) on 18-19 June 09 and is focused on modelling aspects and simulation techniques applied for scientific quality monitoring and data processing. For more information, please, visit the workshop webpage. The deadline for registration and talk abstract is 31 March, 2009.



Job vacancy: Java Software Engineer
As part of the significant MSSL/UCL involvement in ESA's Gaia mission, a new post is available for a Software Engineer to join our team developing the core spectroscopic algorithms for the mission data processing. Knowledge and experience of software development using Java, C++ or other object-oriented languages and techniques is essential. Previous experience in algorithm development within team-based projects is desirable. The post is also expected to work on other on-going virtual observatory projects, like AstroGrid, at MSSL. Further information can be found online. Closing date for applications is 3rd March 2009.



IAU Symposium 261: Relativity in Fundamental Astronomy
Additional travel grants are available for participants in IAU Symposium 261 (27 April - 1 May, Virginia Beach). Deadline for abstract submissions and grant applications has been extended to 26 February. Updated information is available online.



State-of-the-art grating for Gaia
An important milestone has been reached for the Gaia Radial Velocity Spectrometer (RVS): the full-size demonstrator model of the RVS grating - a key component responsible for the dispersion of the light into constituent wavelengths - has been built by industry and was delivered to ESA last month. Read more here.



Summer School Alpbach 2009. Exoplanets: Discovering and characterizing Earth type planets
The Summer School Alpbach 2009 (Austria, July 21-30) will address innovative mission concepts aiming to increase our knowledge of extrasolar planets. Those future missions will help us to increase the number of planetary systems known and will be able to tell us more about the physical characteristics of the planets themselves. Particular emphasis will be given to the study of Earth-like planets found in the habitable zone of other stars since these planets could harbour life. The deadline for applications is March 31, 2009. For more information, visit the school web page.



ESA's Report to the 37th COSPAR Meeting
The 37th Scientific Assembly of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) took place in Montreal (Canada) in July 13-20, 2008. The ESA report to this meeting regarding Gaia mission is available online.



EIROforum School on Instrumentation
The EIROforum School of Instrumentation (ESI) is a biennial event, jointly organized by the Instrumentation Working Group of the EIROforum organizations. The objective of ESI is to teach detector physics and the basic principles of instrumentation to young researchers (PhD students and postdocs) and engineers, mainly from the EIRO organizations. The first school is held at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, 11 - 15 May 2009. Apart from the core programme, this first edition of the school will cover radiation hard technologies for detectors and electronics as highlight topic. For more information, please visit the following web page. Deadline for applications: March 1, 2009.



Vacancy notice: Software Development Engineer (IMCCE/Paris Observatory, France)
The IMCCE/Paris Observatory invites applications for a Software Engineer to work on the development and maintenance of applications to be developed at IMCCE within DPAC, the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium. More details, in French and English, are available at IMCCE at the following link. Closing date: January 21, 2009.



Vacancy notice: position at the Teramo Observatory (Italy)
The Observatory of Teramo has a vacant position for Master or PhD graduate to work on the pre-processing of raw BP/RP data for blended and contaminated sources. The Teramo group, with the teams of Leiden and Rome, investigates how to extract the clean spectra from the overlapping ones through a careful disentangling of all components and of the sky background. Preference will be given to candidates with experience in the treatment of astronomical images and knowledge of the Java programming language. The official announcement and forms, in Italian, can be found at the following link. For further information and help in compiling the Italian forms, please contact Anna Piersimoni. Closing date for application is 20 January 2009.

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